Iran abuses could be ‘crimes against humanity’ — UN expert

Demonstrators hold Iranian flags during a protest in support of Iranian resistance in front of the European Union headquarters in Brussels on March 20, 2023. (John THYS / AFP)
Demonstrators hold Iranian flags during a protest in support of Iranian resistance in front of the European Union headquarters in Brussels on March 20, 2023. (John THYS / AFP)

A UN human rights expert says that Iranian authorities have committed widespread and serious rights violations since the death of Mahsa Amini, noting those breaches could amount to crimes against humanity.

Speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council, the body’s top expert on the situation in Iran, Javaid Rehman, warns that the country is seeing the most serious violations in four decades.

“The scale and gravity of the violations committed by Iranian authorities, especially since the death of Ms. Amini points to the possible commission of international crimes, notably the crimes against humanity of murder, imprisonment, enforced disappearances, torture, rape and sexual violence, and persecution,” he says.

Presenting his latest report to the council, Rehman says he examined the circumstances around Amini’s death in custody following her arrest six months ago for flouting Iran’s strict dress code for women, and the subsequent protests. Drawing on evidence, including eyewitness testimony and comments from reliable medical sources, the report says it was clear she had died last September 16 “as a result of beatings by the state morality police.”

The UN rights council decided last November — over protests from Beijing and Tehran itself — to launch a fact-finding mission into the repression of peaceful demonstrators after protests erupted around Iran.

“Protesters including children were beaten to death,” Rehman says, adding that “at least 527 people, including 71 children, were killed, and hundreds of protesters severely injured.”

He also says dozens of protesters “have lost their eyes because of direct shots to the head,” while Iranian doctors reported that women and girls participating in the demonstrations “were targeted with shotgun fire to their faces, breasts and genitals.”

Rehman highlights mass arrests, including of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and students, as well as reports of torture and ill-treatment of those involved in the protests.

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